The hallmark of this blog is the reliance on the Book of Mormon to provide clear guidance and instruction as to the ‘fulness’ of the gospel. In Joseph Smith – History which contains the recitation of his encounter with Moroni, Joseph Smith said the following:
34 He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants;
The fulness of the everlasting Gospel is contained in the words describing the visit of Jesus Christ to the Nephites. For many years, the first thought of this account was the recital of the Sermon on the Mount. I now have studied the significant doctrinal aspects of this section of Third Nephi and hold it to be critical in our understanding of the message of Jesus Christ in this dispensation.
If these pages do, indeed, contain the fulness of the gospel, what status should we assign to the words and ideas expressed? I would hope you would consider these as very important to each of us. In today’s blog entry, I would like to specifically deal with the Savior’s words on the Sacrament.
First, a little on the events that led up to this topic. After Christ delivered the equivalent of the Beatitudes to the Nephites, he instructed them to
go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again. (3 Nephi 17:3)
We should do the same thing; ponder and pray to understand these words and prepare our minds for the wisdom and knowledge that God will to us impart.
Before Christ left, he was ‘filled with compassion’ for those around him and asked that they bring their sick and afflicted to Him. Along with healing the sick, he blessed each and every child. These children were then ministered unto by angels. By this, Christ stated that His ‘joy was full.’
The two thousand five hundred men, women, and children that were present at this event experienced the change of heart associated with being born again. They were to be re-baptized and receive the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. They were instructed by Christ how they should conduct themselves and how the disciples were to administer the church in their midst.
I would submit that the principles and direction given by the Lord in this setting are timeless, just as the gospel is everlasting. We should continually measure ourselves against the fundamental precepts taught by Christ in this account.
As we read the description of events around the institution of the sacrament, ‘Jesus commanded his disciples that they should bring forth some bread and wine.’ (3 Nephi 18:1) They then left to retrieve these items.
3 And when the Disciples had come with bread and wine, he took of the bread and brake and blessed it; and he gave unto the Disciples and commanded that they should eat.
4 And when they had eaten and were filled, he commanded that they should give unto the multitude.
5 And when the multitude had eaten and were filled, he said unto the Disciples: Behold there shall one be ordained among you, and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it and give it unto the people of my church, unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name.
6 And this shall ye always observe to do, even as I have done, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you.
I think it is important to note that Christ, Himself, blessed and administered the bread to His Disciples. Christ gave the bread to the disciples and they ate until they were filled. There is something significant in this symbolic exercise. We are to come unto Christ and be filled. Does this same symbol apply to today’s postage stamp size chunk of Wonder Bread? Are we indeed filled by the current version of the sacrament or by the way knowledge and wisdom is dispensed by the Church?
In his book, The Heavens Resound, Milton Backman, noted the use of the sacrament in the School of the Prophets (page 265):
The students usually fasted during the day and broke their fast before leaving for home by partaking of the sacrament together, eating some bread (often freshly baked, about the size of a man’s fist according to Zebedee Coltrin), and drinking a glass of wine, in harmony with the pattern practiced by Jesus and his disciples.
When the sacrament was administered at this time, 1833, the pattern was according to the example of the Savior among the Nephites. Should not this practice be followed today?
Just as Christ taught the disciples in chapter 12, verse 1, they were chosen to minister and to serve those who attained membership of the Church. Christ also designated ONE of the disciples who would have the authority to administer the bread. Who should administer the sacrament to the members of the Church?
In the twentieth section of the Doctrine and Covenants we find the following verses:
38 The duty of the elders, priests, teachers, deacons, and members of the church of Christ—An apostle is an elder, and it is his calling to baptize;
39 And to ordain other elders, priests, teachers, and deacons;
40 And to administer bread and wine—the emblems of the flesh and blood of Christ—
46 The priest’s duty is to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize, and administer the sacrament,
49 And he is to take the lead of meetings when there is no elder present;
50 But when there is an elder present, he is only to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize,
58 But neither teachers nor deacons have authority to baptize, administer the sacrament, or lay on hands;
It is my basic assumption that to administer the sacrament is to bless and provide the sacrament to those partaking of it. As is the case, the direction here is that the apostle is to administer the sacrament. In verse 46 we find the list of duties of a priest when there is no elder or apostle present. In verse 50 we find the list of duties of a priest when an elder is present. Look at the difference between verses 46 and 50. As is shown in the verses selected above, the priest is to administer the sacrament ONLY when an elder or apostle is not present. Again, a priest is not to administer the sacrament when there is a senior priesthood holder. It is also important to note that verse 58 prohibits teacher and deacons from participating in the administration of the sacrament. Why do we today allow a teacher or deacon to participate in the administration of the sacrament when they are expressly denied that ‘right’ in the above scripture? What possible value is there in disobeying the commandments of God in something so sacred as the administration of the sacrament?
Is this sufficient to qualify for the warning in Doctrine and Covenants, section 1?
15 For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant;
Have we, over the decades since the restoration of the gospel, strayed from the original structure of the ordinances, such as the sacrament?
Returning to the administration of the sacrament by the Savior to the Nephites we find in 3 Nephi, chapter 18:
8 And it came to pass that when he said these words, he commanded his Disciples that they should take of the wine of the cup and drink of it, and that they should also give unto the multitude that they might drink of it.
9 And it came to pass that they did so, and did drink of it and were filled; and they gave unto the multitude, and they did drink, and they were filled.
10 And when the Disciples had done this, Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you.
11 And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.
It is interesting to note that Christ, in His administration of the sacrament in this case, did not bless the wine independently of the bread, yet we have separate prayers recorded in Moroni for the bread and the wine. Should these two prayers be offered before the administration of the sacrament? – Interesting alternative to the procedure of today. The Disciples drank of the wine until they were filled, just as they did with the bread. Is our tablespoon of water sufficient to ‘fill’ us?
This brings us to the issue of the use of water in the sacrament which is based on the revelation to Joseph Smith found in Doctrine and Covenants, section 27:
2 For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.
3 Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, that you shall not purchase wine neither strong drink of your enemies;
4 Wherefore, you shall partake of none except it is made new among you; yea, in this my Father’s kingdom which shall be built up on the earth.
This revelation seems to allow the use of other substances for the sacrament besides bread and wine. Joseph Smith was specifically told that Saints were to use only wine of their own make in the administration of the sacrament. More than two years later, this same pronouncement was reinforced in section 89 – The Word of Wisdom:
5 That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him
6 And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.
Yet, today, while we have sufficient means to produce wine of our own make, we are still using water as a substitute for the wine prescribed in the scriptures.
As Christ concluded His administration of the sacrament among the Nephites, He added this specific direction:
12 And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall do these things. And if ye shall always do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock.
13 But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them.
We are commanded to do the things that Christ demonstrated among the Nephites. The Savior added the warning that if we should do more or less than what he showed us, we are building on a sandy foundation with the gates of hell in the offing. This is one on only a few places in the scriptures where we are warned to not add or take away from the topic. Have we modified the ordinance of the sacrament by changing what can be used as the emblems? Have we changed the administration by allowing priests, to administer the sacrament even when elders and apostles are present? Why are teachers and deacons involved in the administration of the sacrament even though this action is proscribed by the Doctrine and Covenants?
The sacrament, as defined by Christ, is an opportunity to demonstrate our willingness to follow His commandments (3 Nephi 18:10) What have we demonstrated by allowing these changes to be made with respect to this sacred ordinance? Are we, as a result, building on a sandy foundation?
What think ye?